Meeting with Geoduck Farm Proponent held 27 November 2013

On Wednesday 27 November, 2013, sixteen concerned people from Kye Bay attended a meeting at the K’omoks Band Hall, arranged by Salish Sea Farms Ltd at our request. This company, which is owned by the K’omoks First Nation, has applied for a licence to occupy about one square km of sea bed off Kye Bay, for the purpose of farming geoducks (see link “Potential Geoduck Farm in Waters Off Kye Bay”, right, for application details and initial reactions from Kye Bayers). Mr. Tom Broadley, a Registered Professional Biologist and company agent, answered our questions for some 90 minutes.

After the meeting, the consensus was that, if Salish Sea Farms followed through with the plans as described by Mr. Broadley, the group’s concerns were not serious enough to warrant an objection to the application.  Indeed, many felt that a letter of support might be more appropriate.  The group felt that establishing a neighbourly relationship with the K’omoks might be helpful in creating an environment where ongoing issues could be dealt with amicably and efficiently.   We were informed:

  • The company’s vision is to operate a sustainable business that will remain viable for the band’s grandchildren and beyond.
  • The company wishes to be a good neighbor and will have an open door and mind to any reasonable concerns of its neighbours.
  • All areas proposed by the company for geoduck farming are already being harvested for wild geoducks every 3 years, and have been so for many years. The existing commercial fishery is near collapse due to harvesting at an unsustainable rate. Residents may have noticed boats in the spring which are conducting surveys or harvesting.
  • The company is expecting the most significant resistance to its application to come from existing geoduck fishing licence holders who will likely claim loss of income. The approval process may take as much as 5 years.
  • The primary difference between what is occurring now and what will occur in the future, if the company’s application is approved, is that the farmed areas will be reseeded with juvenile geoducks after harvesting, and the sandy bottom will be covered with a net (about ¼” mesh) for 1 to 2 years.
  • The net is buried around the edges and held 6″ above the sea floor by PVC or wood posts to prevent predators (crabs, starfish, urchins) from eating the young geoducks. The net is recovered and reused after the geoducks have grown and burrowed deep enough to be safe from predators.
  • The geoducks are harvestable about 8 years from seeding.  Each year, about 1/10th of the licence is seeded.  After about 8 years, the first area seeded is harvested and re-seeded.
  • The company will be required to reseed after every harvest. Failure to do so will result in the loss of their farming licence.
  • Harvesting is accomplished by divers working from a boat who use a high pressure water hose to loosen the clams.  The sand is coarse enough that it does not migrate very far away from the site.
  • Boats used for farming operations are relatively small (about 30’ aluminum) and will be difficult to see from the shore. Engine noise is low and will probably not be audible from the shore. Hours of operation are normal business hours. Operations will not take place in the middle of the night or early mornings.
  • All farms, including the Kye Bay licence, are located at a minimum low tide depth of 30’ and the nets and other evidence of the farm will not be visible at low tide.
  • The proposed Kye Bay farm is outside the reef.  For the most part, the seeded areas will be more than 2 km from shore.
  • The habitat preferred by geoducks and consequently all areas applied for farming by the company are barren flat sand. A person diving in these areas would observe little or no life. The impact of geoduck farming on other species is thus low.
  • The company is not permitted to farm geoducks in environmentally sensitive areas such as kelp or eelgrass habitat. Even if the company were permitted to operate in these areas it would not do so because it understands the importance of kelp and eelgrass to the ecology. Furthermore, farmed areas have no rocks and therefore are not suitable for kelp growth.
  • The company does not intend to modify the local wild geoduck genetic stock. All broodstock will be obtained from local wild populations. No broodstock will be obtained from other regions such as Washington State.
  • No nutrients or drugs will be applied to the farmed areas.
  • The company is required to contribute to an industry association fund that will pay for equipment removal and habitat restoration in the event that the company fails.
  • The company must also post a bond to enable cleanup if the project is abandoned, though the abandonment costs would not be very high (two years of netting and net posts.)
  • Equipment losses are important to the farmers, as their business depends on keeping the predators out until the geoducks are established. The company patrols beaches adjacent to its farms on a weekly basis and will promptly remove any netting or other equipment that washes ashore. Residents are also encouraged to report any farm debris to the company and it will be dealt with.
  • Winds and currents in the Kye Bay region are such that in the unlikely event that a net did break free, it will not end up on Kye Bay beaches. If a net did end up on a Kye Bay beach the company would retrieve it with boats and would not operate equipment on the beach.
  • The company’s application included the possibility of sea cucumber farming. The reason for this inclusion and the company’s plan are unclear. Mr. Broadley said sea cucumbers are not the focus of the planned business.
  • An environmental impact study will be conducted prior to approval of the company’s application. It is unclear what input or review Kye Bay residents will have over this study.

8 thoughts on “Meeting with Geoduck Farm Proponent held 27 November 2013

  1. Thank you for your work in examining this issue. Let us hope your assessment is correct and everyone can proceed in a neighbourly manner, certainly many if not all, of my initial concerns have been eliminated, if the truth has been told, always a question when commerce is involved.

  2. I met Martin Crilly, Chair, Kye Bay Ratepayers’ Association at the recent Swan festival in the Comox Valley. Martin was wanting to know more about geoduck aquaculture to then meet with his ratepayers group. We talked generally about aquaculture and recommenced he talk directly with Tom Broadley of Salish Sea Farms. After reading Martins report above I was very impressed with their groups professionalism and clear understanding of the issues. This type of open mildness to meet, listen and interact is a breath of fresh air in our community, Thanks Martin and the ratepayers for your understanding. I agree with your statements and will also support these applications for geoduck aquaculture in our local waters.

  3. Thank you for your virtually instant reply to my concern. It’s very much appreciated!

  4. We found the information session very informative and we learned a lot about the farming process. I think like a lot of people, we were initially expecting that there would be a lot of environmental concerns, and were surprised to discover that this was not the case. We appreciate having the opportunity to have our say and listen to everyone’s concerns. Thank you for this opportunity. Greatly appreciated.

  5. @Marianne; the type of aquaculture proposed at this site does not involve the use of “tubes”. What is being proposed is sub-tidal geoduck culture using anti-predator netting as a deterrent, effectively preventing sea stars, crab etc from feeding on the newly planted geoduck seed. This netting is only used during the first two years or so and is removed and re-utilized afterwards. There is no risk of “tubes floating away” as tubes won’t be used. The tubes you speak of are utilized in the intertidal culture of geoduck which is the approach commonly used by the American geoduck culture industry but is not what is being proposed by Salish Sea Farms at Kye Bay.

  6. Thank you, Martin, for keeping us so well informed about this issue, a matter of which I knew nothing. Thanks also to Sandy and Edie who brought up the subject and their concerns in the first place.

    Although it may have been covered at the meeting, I was concerned about the ‘plastic tubes’ that would contain the seeds. I would imagine that of those there would be thousands, with the potential of getting loose. What prevents the currents from taking those tubes and floating them ashore in piles up/down the coast?

  7. Having spent hours looking at research out of Washington State and reading the proposals and the concerns, I feel that the Kye Bay site is more suited to the raising of geoducks than other sites that have been chosen. Therefore, at this time and with the understanding that an environmental assessment will take place I do not feel the need to oppose the application for a geoduck farm off of Kye Bay. I would like to withhold my complete support until after reading the environmental impact study.
    Thank you Rob and Norm for your detailed and informative notes as I was sick the night of the talk. Thank you Martin for organizing everything so efficiently as usual.

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